VOTD: How 'The Irishman' VFX Used New Technology To De-Age Robert De Niro, Al Pacino & Joe Pesci

In recent years, the visual effects used to de-age actors has produced impressive results. Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Michael Douglas have all been made young again in the movies of Marvel Studios. But those are blockbuster movies. Could the same digital technology be effectively used to craft an award-worthy drama featuring de-aged actors? Director Martin Scorsese wasn't entirely sure it was possible for his long-gesting movie The Irishman, but Industrial Light & Magic visual effects wizard Pablo Helman made it work with an entirely new approach to digital de-aging.

Learn how The Irishman VFX came together below.

The Irishman VFX Featurette

Martin Scorsese's hesitation with de-aging visual effects was that he didn't want Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci to dramatically perform while wearing distracting markers on their face. So Pablo Helman came up with a new piece of software called Flux that was used in conjunction with a three-camera set-up which would allow a digital re-creation of the actor's younger faces. This was achieved with endless reference information from their older movies and no facial markers.

The video above reveals the extensive work that went into giving us younger versions of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. More often than not, the effects are seamless and unnoticeable, though there are some shots that still look more like a polished video game character. But when you look at the initial test completed with Robert De Niro and this technology, you can see that it improved greatly for the final film.

What's even more impressive is that they were able to use this new technology and the camera rig required to make it work properly without sacrificing any of the capabilities of a regular camera. The three-camera rig looks like a cable nightmare, but they were able to operate like your average set.